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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was let.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as NDP MP for Halifax (Nova Scotia)

Won her last election, in 2006, with 47% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Official Development Assistance Accountability Act May 9th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I very much welcome the opportunity to say a few words in support of what are the very final moments of something historic in terms of this Parliament adopting Bill C-293. I am almost inclined to say almost nothing and quit while I am ahead, because there has been a rare coming together here of a collaborative nature.

There have been a lot of disagreements and a lot of pushing and shoving. I want to be fair here and acknowledge the parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Macleod, who set out some very severe reservations about some of the aspects of this bill. I think he is the only parliamentary secretary who ever did actually extend the courtesy of sitting down with me in my office to discuss something. We had some major disagreements and there have been some compromises made.

However, at a time when a lot of the public looks on this place these days with a good deal of consternation and sees the dysfunctionality, the division and the dissension, it has to be a good day for us to come together around what is truly a global commitment, about which I think we feel good as parliamentarians and about which Canadians I think very much feel that we need to work together. It is not always easy to do. We have had to make compromises along the way.

I want to congratulate the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, because he picked up the torch and carried it in a very determined way. He, like I, was very grateful for the persistent and consistent support not just from Gerry Barr, an individual who has put his heart and soul into this, but really from the entire NGO community across this country, including campus-based organizations and faith-based organizations that really pushed to make this happen.

We have a lot more work to do, but we will get on with it buoyed by a sense of responsibility and cohesion around this. Let us not forget that it is not just about the effectiveness of aid, but also about increasing our commitment to the level of aid, or we are not going to get the job done.

With those very brief words, uncharacteristically, I want to take my seat and give the last word to the member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act May 9th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, we will just respectfully have to agree to disagree. A great many people in this country, from Newfoundland through to British Columbia, who have decades of experience and an in-depth knowledge of the shipbuilding industry, happen not to agree with the government on this and we happen to agree with them.

One of the reasons, if he wants to know why there is such concern, is that when there were a lot of concerns about the Jones act in the U.S. being exempted from NAFTA and a lot of people in the shipbuilding industry were saying that it was really going to be a blow to the industry, the Conservatives said, “No, this is a great deal”. The Liberals said they were opposed to it, but then they signed it anyway when they got into government. The Conservatives said it was a great deal and there was no problem, but of course we know that is not true.

Let me again quote Andrew McArthur, one of the foremost authorities. I do not have time to quote him at length, but he made it absolutely clear that NAFTA had been a disaster when he said:

Looking at NAFTA, we feel we were sold down the river. We cannot build for American shipowners, but American shipbuilders can build for Canadian shipowners....

They are suspicious. In the short term, they understand, as I have acknowledged, that the refurbishing of the fleet is a very positive thing for the existing shipbuilding industry, but it does not provide what they said was essential: if not a carve-out, then a clear, comprehensive, national shipbuilding policy. We still do not have it. On that basis, they and we cannot support this flawed agreement.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act May 9th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to be argumentative. I do not know whether the member was in the chamber when I spoke but if he was, he either did not listen to what I said, which is his prerogative, or he did listen and knows that he has completely misrepresented what I said.

I said, in no uncertain terms, that it does bode well in the short term for jobs in shipbuilding. I made that very clear. I complimented the government on that and acknowledged that was so.

What I went on to say, however, which he chose to either disregard or misrepresent, which is not quite within the rules, is not what he said. He said that I had suggested that this was a negative thing and that I did not acknowledge that the implications for shipbuilding in the short term were positive. I do acknowledge that, but the present government, like the Liberals before it, has only a short term view of these things.

If he wants to know why we cannot support this bill unamended, it is because a carve out of the shipbuilding industry would have done nothing to damage the prospects for the jobs that are now going to be generated by the new refurbishing of our fleets. Therefore, a very simple carve out would have made a great deal of difference. We will continue to fight for that. We believe that was what was needed and without it we will not be able to vote for it.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act May 9th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased this afternoon to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-55.

I was in the House earlier today when the minister of trade made his very enthusiastic uncritical comments in support of the bill that is before us. I listened very carefully to what the minister of trade had to say about what the impact of Bill C-55 if implemented in its current form would be on the shipbuilding industry of this country.

I expected that he would speak in an informed way about what are some very serious concerns which are widely shared not just by a small corner of this House, not just by 30 New Democrat members of Parliament, but by a great many people across this country, particularly on both coasts, in terms of the very worrisome impact this free trade deal will have on the shipbuilding industry. Far from hearing him give appropriate attention to the very legitimate concerns that are widely shared and widely expressed, he more or less dismissed those concerns. I do not want to misrepresent him in any way, but I think he referred to them as certain sensitivities. He said there were certain sensitivities that had arisen in regard to shipbuilding.

I do not know the minister of trade personally, but I have to say that is one of the world's greatest understatements. Perhaps he is prone to understatement, I do not know, but it certainly does not do justice and it does not deal fairly with what are very deeply rooted concerns. From my point of view and that of the New Democratic caucus, these are well-founded concerns about what the impact of this deal, if it goes ahead unamended, will be on thousands of jobs in this country.

Having said that, there is a very unhappy history, one that is very much shared by and is the joint responsibility of a succession of Conservative, Liberal and Conservative governments. There has been a complete failure by any of those governments over the decades to put in place the kind of comprehensive, coherent, national shipbuilding policy that would have served this country so much better than the kind of fits and starts, piecemeal approach to shipbuilding. It has often been an approach that has been based more on short term electoral considerations than on the very fundamental issues that underlie the need for a comprehensive national shipbuilding policy.

My own experience and exposure to the inadequate responses of the succession of governments began when I was leader of the New Democratic Party in Nova Scotia. There were very real, well-founded concerns about the impact of that lack of a national shipbuilding policy in my own riding in Halifax. At that time I was proud to represent the riding of Halifax Fairview, and before that, Halifax Chebucto. Both of those provincial ridings were very much impacted by the policy, or more accurately, the absence of a national shipbuilding policy. That had an impact on the Halifax shipyards. We have systematically allowed that to happen in this country. Other countries, and one most notable in the context of this debate is Norway, have understood that there cannot be a sound, competitive shipbuilding industry if there is not a net comprehensive national policy.

I recall attending federal NDP conventions in the early 1990s. I think 1991 was one of the occasions when I was part of crafting and piloting through a very comprehensive policy that was adopted by the New Democratic Party. We called for that national shipbuilding policy. Before I ever came to Ottawa and continuing since I entered this chamber in 1997, the New Democratic Party has been very consistent and very persistent in continuing to press for that national shipbuilding policy.

We still do not have it. When the Minister of International Trade refers to “certain sensitivities”, his words, with respect to the disastrous impact that this trade deal, unamended, could have on our shipbuilding industry, he is being extremely insensitive to both that pathetic history of governments of his party's stripe and of the Liberals in not securing a sound base for a robust shipbuilding industry that can continue to compete in today's world.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with our current shipbuilders and our current shipyard workers in terms of their ability to compete, but we have had such a fits and starts approach to this industry that what has effectively happened is that Norway foremost, but other countries as well, has invested in a smart, orderly and far-sighted way in its shipbuilding industry. It has in the process established itself as a competitor that will be a huge winner from the trade deal that is before us. I say good for it.

Some people ask, what is wrong with New Democrats? After all Norway has had a proud tradition of being a social democratic country committed to high wages, committed to practically the whole range of policy objectives that the current government and the Liberal government before it completely pushed aside as not the domain of government intervention. In fact in Norway the government has intervened in a very smart way to build up its shipbuilding capacity, to train, to invest in the hardware, software and infrastructure needed, in the tax policies and so on.

It is not some kind of unexpected development that Canada finds itself at such a disadvantage in relation to competing with a country like Norway. What is unexpected, but I suppose we should come to expect it, what is absolutely unacceptable and impossible to understand for a lot of people whose jobs are at stake is what on earth Canada has been doing in the meantime that has allowed us to be so vulnerable.

It is not just New Democrats who are speaking out on this, although before I go to some of the other voices and some of the other interests very much concerned about the devastation in the shipbuilding industry that can result from this trade deal, I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore, who is not able to be here today. I have to say that if he had been in the House to hear the minister talk about certain sensitivities, I think he probably would have had a heart attack. In fact, he had an accident and because of his injury was in hospital yesterday being operated on, and therefore, he was not able to be here today. He has never failed to take a stand on behalf of the shipbuilders and the shipyard workers in this country from the day he entered public life.

It is not just the Nova Scotian members of Parliament in the New Democratic caucus who have been very vocal, knowledgeable and persistent in putting forward their concerns. There are several members from British Columbia. For example, there is the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. The Nanaimo shipyards are very important to the local economy and obviously for local jobs. There is the member for Victoria. In Victoria the Esquimalt dry dock is very important. The Lower Mainland and the Vancouver members all have expressed their concerns articulately. However, it is not just New Democrats who have spoken out.

I would like to read briefly from some of the testimony before the parliamentary committee when Karl Risser, president of Local 1, which was originally the Marine Workers' Federation but is now affiliated with the Canadian Auto Workers Shipbuilding, appeared before the committee. He did so not just on behalf of the proud members who have a long history with the Marine Workers' Federation and today are affiliated with CAW, but also on behalf of the Shipbuilding, Waterways and Marine Workers Council that has done a lot of collaboration and coordination around its concerns about this impending devastation to the shipbuilding industry. He stated in committee:

I am here on behalf of the workers in the marine express our opposition to this agreement. Canadian shipbuilders find themselves competing for work in domestic and international markets on far from a level ground. Other governments, Norway for one, have supported the shipbuilding industries for years and have built them into powers, while Canada has not. We have had little protection, and what little protection we have left is a 25% tariff on imported vessels into Canada, which is being washed away by government daily through agreements such as this and the exemptions being negotiated with companies.

I will not go on at length, but he makes the important point that ministers of defence over the years have acknowledged how important shipbuilding is to our defence. I know there are some members who will rush forward in this context and ask what my concern is now because we have some important new shipbuilding activity happening with respect to the submarine refits and to the frigates. That is absolutely true and it is very welcome, and I acknowledge that, but with respect to defence and shipbuilding, there has never been a comprehensive approach taken to this and, therefore, we have not had orderly procurement nor long term planning and investments. We have had major investments into important contracts from time to time but then just a drought for very long periods.

Someone who is not familiar with the shipbuilding industry may say that it is not the government's problem. Do we want the government investing and awarding contracts to shipyards to build naval vessels that we do not need? No, but that is not the point. The reason we need a comprehensive national shipbuilding policy is because of the very heavy investment of public dollars into contracts that are awarded for naval vessels and, most recently, major contracts with respect to frigates and subs. Without a comprehensive national shipbuilding policy, all that investment would fall idle if we did not have a commitment to Canadian shipbuilding of non-defence vessels.

It is not surprising that a lot of concern has been expressed. Unwisely, the government felt that, because of opposition from the existing shipyards and in the absence of a national shipbuilding policy, which, understandably, marine and shipyard workers across the country will be very opposed to, it could award the major contracts for both the frigate and the submarine refits and that would shut them up. It felt that would keep them busy in the short term and that they would not dare speak out because they would be so grateful.

However, what they understand, what they committed to and what they lobbied a long time for was not just the immediate investment in contracts that would benefit them individually as workers or their families, but they had pleaded the case and put forward comprehensive proposals for what a national shipbuilding policy should look like and they still do not have it.

Therefore, there are major concerns about what will happen to our shipyards and to the jobs of our shipyard workers over time.

The point was made that Norway should be the kind of country with which we would welcome entering into trade deals, and that is true, but that does not mean we can turn our backs on the legitimate problems that have arisen, not because of what it is looking for but because of what we have failed to do in terms or appropriate investments.

As I indicated, many other people have expressed concerns about the impact of this. Some may suggest that it only affects the shipyard workers. However, in his testimony before the committee, the president of the Shipyard General Workers' Federation in British Columbia stated:

The Canadian shipbuilding industry is already operating at about one-third of its capacity. Canadian demand for ships over the next 15 years is estimated to be worth $9 billion in Canadian jobs. Under the FTAs with Norway, Iceland, and now planned with Korea and then Japan, these Canadian shipbuilding jobs are in serious jeopardy. In these terms, this government's plan is sheer folly and an outrage.

Is it only the workers who have spoken out? No it is not.

In his testimony before committee, Andrew McArthur, speaking on behalf of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada but long-associated with Irving Shipbuilding Inc. and now in retirement, said:

So our position from day one has been that shipbuilding should be carved out from the trade agreement. We butted our heads against a brick wall for quite a number of years on that and we were told there is no carve-out. If the Americans, under the Jones Act, can carve out shipbuilding from NAFTA and other free trade agreements, as I believe the Americans are doing today with Korea, or have done, why can Canada not do the same? ...We have to do something to ensure shipbuilding continues. The easiest thing is to carve it out from EFTA. And if you do one thing, convince your colleagues in government to extend the ship financing facility, make it available to Canadian owners in combination with the accelerated capital cost allowance, and you will have as vibrant an industry as exists

However, what has not happened is the kind of response to the expert advice given by those involved in the shipbuilding industry and by the concerns put forward by the shipyard workers themselves.

I want to come back to where the Liberals stand on this. I could not help but think how consistent they have been, and they are consistent if nothing else, on the budget, on the extension of the Afghan counter-insurgency mission and with regard to climate change. They have railed against them, have talked about the problems with them and then have voted for them or did not vote at all.

Today we heard the trade critic for the Liberals say that they really had concerns about shipbuilding. He knows the problems and spoke a bit about them but then said that they would monitor the effect of this on the shipbuilding industry.

In conclusion, I want to indicate that the New Democratic Party cannot support this bill without a carve out for the shipbuilding industry and without any indication that some of the agricultural implications have been adequately addressed.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns May 9th, 2008

With respect to the recently cancelled visit of His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal to Canada: (a) has there been any contact between representatives of His Royal Highness and the Prime Minister’s Office ahead of His Royal Highness’ planned visit to Canada at the end of March or early April; and (b) had His Royal Highness or his representatives made special requests for customs and security procedures for their entry into Canada and, if so, (i) were these requests denied and, if so, why, (ii) how did these requests compare to normal customs and security procedures for other visiting dignitaries or eminent personalities from other countries?

Burma May 9th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the military junta in Burma is letting its own people die. Canada must use every single tool available to convince the Burmese dictatorship to accept the world's help.

Our aid agencies need assistance to get supplies into the most devastated regions. Canada's aid agencies have a long history of working with the Burmese people and Canada must be in the lead here. Why will the government not appoint a respected eminent Canadian, a special envoy, for cyclone relief in Burma?

Burma May 9th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the military junta in Burma is preventing international aid from entering the country. The United Nations was forced to suspend its humanitarian flights. There are claims of soldiers confiscating shipments. Canadian NGOs have thousands of people on the ground, but the aid has not arrived.

Will the government send a special envoy to Burma? Why is one not already en route to Rangoon?

Nuclear Non-Proliferation May 9th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has once again gone out of its way to embarrass itself on the international stage. This time it is the nuclear non-proliferation treaty preparatory committee meetings in Geneva.

While the rest of the world attempted to take a more constructive approach to the challenges of nuclear non-proliferation, the Canadian government delegation stood almost alone, hurling accusations at Iran and North Korea, ignoring the fact that supposed non-NPT states like India, Pakistan and Israel have acquired nuclear weapons as well.

This is tragic and it is dangerous. Canada is blessed with world-leading civil society experts who have helped form our nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation policies. Thanks to them, Canada has been known as a world leader in this area.

Disgracefully, for the first time at the nuclear non-proliferation treaty preparatory committee, the Canadian delegation did not include a single NGO participant.

These days when Canada speaks, the world shakes its head. The government is destroying our international reputation and undermining the global fight against nuclear proliferation.

Business of Supply May 8th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question by the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie. It allows me the opportunity to say what tremendous leadership he has provided persistently, consistently and stubbornly on the issue of a serious comprehensive anti-poverty strategy in this country. The member has criss-crossed this country from one end to the other, north, south, east, west, to invite people to come together and talk about solutions. We now are going to finally have an all-party committee that begins to go to work on this--

Business of Supply May 8th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, there is no mystery about how much damage was done by the massive changes that were introduced by the Employment Insurance Act in 1995-96. There is no mystery about whether the damage was real because the province of Nova Scotia went from never having elected a New Democrat in the history of that province on the Nova Scotia mainland, to actually electing four New Democrats in the metro area in Halifax alone and two more in Cape Breton. Why? It is not because we all suddenly appeared with all the answers. More than any other single thing it was because of the damage that was done to the lives of people because of the massive changes to employment insurance. They were hitting people, affecting people and people were demanding that there be repairs done.

The Liberals never brought about the improvements that were needed after getting that loud message in 1997. Now 11 years later the changes still have not been made. The numbers of hours required to qualify are still excessively high for people in various seasonal industries, for example.

As if it is not an indignity enough to pay and pay into the employment insurance fund, the effect of that on the lives of people, the effect for parents of young children is that they are forced into living in dire poverty.

The other effect which is very real for Atlantic Canadians and for people from the north, is that it is a forced outmigration program when we do not have an adequate stabilizing unemployment insurance system. We are losing a lot of our workers to other parts of Canada because that is the only way they can feed their families. Of course that causes a further erosion of the economic base of our community.